Tauranga City Council has backed a $475,000 increase in ratepayer-funded spending on economic development and tourism promotion.
It represents a 22 per cent lift in the $2.13 million currently levied on commercial ratepayers to help fund Tourism Bay of Plenty, Priority One, Export Bay of Plenty and the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce.
The council will seek public feedback on the proposed new spending, led by a $325,000 increase for economic development.
The money for economic development will be split between Priority One and a new "digital enablement programme". Council strategic planner Ross Hudson said the exact split would be worked out over coming weeks.
His report to yesterday's council meeting said the $325,000 increase plus inflation would result in 87 per cent of businesses experiencing either a rates reduction or an increase of less than $250. This was partly because last year's city-wide revaluation had impacted less on commercial properties than residential properties.
Read more: Rate rise likely for Tauranga residents
The digital investment was for projects to "remove barriers to the effective utilisation of the internet and digital services by businesses and the community". The other focus for the $325,000 was additional funding to attract more overseas investment, business relocations, skilled migrants and collaboration on research and development.
Councillor Steve Morris was the only councillor to vote against the $325,000 increase in the targeted rate on Tauranga businesses. He sought an easily understood anecdote that he could pass on to commercial ratepayers.
"I have yet to be fully convinced about the value of the digital enhancement plan."
Mr Morris was told a range of things could be done to generate new business opportunities and to access services that would otherwise not happen.
"Is this a case of teaching people to suck eggs? We have infrastructure in the ground. Surely businesses can maximise opportunities that are out there," he said, referring the city's new network of high-speed broadband.
Mr Hudson said evidence suggested that the area was not taking advantage of emerging digital solutions and customer opportunities for businesses.
Councillor Catherine Stewart was concerned that it would end up being "more hui than doie".
Mr Hudson said there was a low risk that the funding would be used inefficiently. Councillor Matt Cowley said the aim was to help local people stay ahead of the technology curve and "ride the wave". Councillor Bev Edlin said Tauranga was not just about developing new houses but employing the people that lived in the houses. Mayor Stuart Crosby agreed, saying that property growth went in cycles and was fragile.
Tauranga City Council economic development and tourism funding*
* Priority One $804,000
* Export Bay of Plenty $55,000
* Tauranga Chamber of Commerce $55,000
* Tourism Bay of Plenty (including i-Site contract) $1.213 million
(*for 2015-16 financial year)